'-BAPTISM OF FIRE (bip'tTz'm i5v fir).
The words of John the Baptist (Matt. iii At). "He that cometh after me shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire," have given occa sion to various interpretations. Some of the fathers (e. g. John Damascenus) hold it to mean the everlasting fire of hell. Others of the fathers (as Chrysostom, Hom. II, in Nlatt.) declare that by fire in this passage the Baptist means the Holy Spirit, who as fire, should destroy the pollutions of sin in the regeneration conferred by holy baptism.
Others again, as Hilary and Ambrose, as well as Origen, believe it to mean a purifying fire through which the faithful shall pass before enter ing paradise, thus giving rise to the Roman Catho lic doctrine of purgatory. Others think that it means the fire of tribulations and sorrows; others the abundance of graces; others, the fire of peni tence and self-mortification, etc.
The Hermenians and Seleucians understood the passage literally and maintained that material fire was necessary in the administration of baptism.
The word fire is frequently used in Scripture to represent both purifying and destroying agencies, and expositors differ as to whether to apply it to the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, or to the destruction of the wicked. Scripture also affirms in Is. i :25 ; iv :3, 4; Ezek. xx :38; iii :2, 17, 18, that the true Israel will be separated even by severe measures, both from the ungodly and from their own remaining sins. (See Is. i :25 ; iv :3, 4: Ezek. xx :38; Mal. iii :2, 17, t8.) Valentinus re baptized those who had received baptism out of his sect, and drew them through the fire, and it is said by Clemens Alexandrines that I•raclion applied a red-hot iron to the ears of the baptized, as if to impress on them some mark (Mc. and Str. Cye.).
Meyer (Coot., in loc.) says that all explanations "which take fire as not referring to the punish ments of Gehenna arc refuted by John's own de cisive explanation in Matt. iii :12."